All season Tiger Woods has preached that he would play less in 2019 than he did in 2018. Four months into the year, that seems to be coming to fruition.
Friday’s 5 p.m. EDT deadline to enter next week’s Wells Fargo Championship came and went without a commitment from the recently minted Masters champ. It was an event that many—tournament organizers included—had expected Woods to play, given his history at Quail Hollow Club and the likelihood that it would be his only start before next month’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
But this is the new reality for a 43-year-old who has undergone four back surgeries, including spinal fusion surgery in the spring of 2017, and suffered from countless other maladies throughout his career. Last year, Woods made 19 starts, his most since 2013. This year, he has made just six, having pulled out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, a tournament he has won eight times, at the last minute because of a strained neck.
“I played a little bit too much last year because I kept trying to qualify for World Golf Championships and events in the [FedEx Cup] playoffs,” Woods said following his victory at Augusta National two weeks ago. “I’m going to play a little bit less than I did last year. Again, in the tournaments I do play in, I'll be fully invested and committed to playing and trying to win.”
On Wednesday, Woods announced he would be playing in the PGA Tour’s first official event in Japan, the ZOZO Championship, in October. It’s expected that he’ll also play an exhibition match in Asia as part of an agreement he signed last year with GolfTV.
A day later, he sat down for his first interview since capturing his 15th career major and first in more than a decade, telling GolfTV that the achievement has yet to sink in. What he did not say, though, is when he would play next.
Quail Hollow seemed like a likely choice. Woods played there six times between 2004 and 2012, winning in 2007 to go with a T-3 in 2004 and a fourth-place finish in 2009. He was also in the field there last year, tying for 55th.
However, Woods appeared to be walking gingerly when he arrived for his sit-down with GolfTV. Though he appeared fine as the network filmed him playing a practice round at his home club, Medalist, in South Florida on Friday, it’s clear that Woods is indeed being cautious with his schedule.
The only other event Woods could play before the PGA Championship in three weeks is the AT&T Byron Nelson, which is being held for the second year at Trinity Forest in Dallas. That would seem unlikely, however, since he has never played at the new tournament home, and hasn’t played in the tournament at all since 2005.